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“Out of difficulties grow miracles.”—Jean de la Bruyere

The puzzle room is occupied by two women—huddled in the padded chairs, conversing. I’ve made my way to the backside of the library—lined with a row of floor-to-ceiling windows jutted up against a dense forest.

The sun is pitched high in the sky—unencumbered by clouds—painting more-white the few birch peppered among the ample pines. Among the coniferous species, these imposing hardwoods—known for their flaky bark that burns so vigorously in woodstoves—stand out like skeletons, bleached and wiry.

Thirty-six degrees feels balmy after the recent stretch of below zero temperatures—days so cold wool-covered fingers ached and children’s cheeks grew rosy dangerously fast as they played on the swing. Layers of clothing have been shed, the build up of winter’s accumulations rapidly turning to liquid.

Growing heavier in its altered state, the snow tumbles down clumsily from high above in the trees leaving the bottom branches flapping—like wings.

Birds—awakened by this January thaw—flit around praising the warmth. A chainsaw gnaws in the distance and I keep my head tilted upward—absorbing the blue sky through branches. The places behind my eyes soften—like tepid puddles.

I could cry for the beauty of just being.

In a world so entranced by production and acquisition, quiet sitting and reflecting feels like a weighty act of rebellion.

The relief from the fierce chill is like a heavy backpack stripped off and placed on the ground—mirroring the sensation of living when life’s trials have eased.

A slight breeze kicks up and all of the branches begin to flutter ever so slightly—the peaks of the trees sway almost imperceptibly from side to side in a gentle rhythm as if in response to a silent symphony playing out the story of the lifting freeze.

My friend dropped off a milk crate and three plastic bags filled with plants I offered to adopt when her mother moved to a nursing home. Many of the plants were wilted and in need of care. Five of them were orchids.

I had warned her of my troubled history with most houseplants even as I hoped voraciously to offer them a loving home. I don’t think she believed me.

I wondered if she thought my affinity for all things green translated into an innate ability to sustain life force deeply dependent on a precarious balance of light, water and nourishment.

“I know you have a green thumb,” she said when she dropped the plants at my house—like orphans in a basket on a doorstep—the weather still frigid then.

Jonah and I took the bags and crate from her in the doorway by the garage—brisk air blew into the toasty, warm kitchen. In our socks we stood on the floral rug and waved goodbye, thanking her, she thanking us.

There are a slew of orchids that have died within my care. Exquisitely beautiful and promising in the grocery stores and garden centers, they are short-lived in my home.

Placing an ice cube in their soil religiously on Fridays—like a celebration of the coming Sabbath—I imagine them thriving. I take in their beauty as long as I can, somehow knowing their eventual fate.

Inevitably—as if inscribed in their design—I watch as their petals drop off and their leaves wilt.

I frantically over-water them. They quickly perish.

In the early morning after Autumn died, I walked aimlessly through a fluorescent-lit grocery store. Two robust and flowering plants caught my eye. I bought them both—their white flowers seeming a felicitous memorial to the loss of my beloved, feline friend.

Around Christmas I found in a hardware store two marine-colored, glossy ceramic pots and bought those too. I placed the plants in the pots in the kitchen where I could nurture them in the way I had Autumn—attentively and throughout the day.

Recently I read that grief is the overwhelming sensation of love with nowhere to land. Each time I’ve walked past these two plants —a cyclamen and a hydrangea—I have placed love in their midst. I have allowed their presence to soothe me. I have fretted over them, too.

I removed the various plants from the bags and crate and began tending to them. I snipped off dying leaves and topped off the pots with a bag of potting soil I had on hand.

My kitchen sink became filled with verdant leaves and soil circling the drain.

Outside the snow was hardening, inside a burgeoning conservatory was coming to life.

I found a spot on a plant stand in the corner by the stairs for the leafy bonsai that was thriving more than most of the new arrivals. I wondered whether I would know how to care for it properly, or if it would freeze to death being so near our large, front picture window that emanates cold, Maine, winter winds.

I felt intermittently hopeful and apprehensive—like toad, in the Frog & Toad story, “The Garden,” in which toad wants to have a garden like frog and proceeds to hover over his recently planted seeds anxiously—trying to will them to grow.

I recommitted to the other plants in our home that in some ways I have neglected. I fed them all with fresh soil and plant food and water. I made little arrangements of similar species, grouped together.

One of the largest plants was drooping badly. It was the last that I tended to. I removed many long, yellowing and some drying leaves. It drank up the water I poured into it. I placed it among a group of plants at the top of our stairs.

In the morning, I was encouraged to see that it—along with my own Christmas cactus that I’ve somehow managed to keep alive for eight years—had risen upright in the night. Its leaves stood tall and expansive. It radiated, “I’m alive, I’m alive” into the space.

Our home is bright in many ways. In the winter months, though, direct sunlight and warmth on windowsills are hard to come by. This can be difficult for all living beings.

I can give the plants water and attention and artificial light. In this season, I cannot bring them to the sun.

My hope is that the light I carry within—the energy I have in me that is seeking a place to reside—can find a place to land in these forces of nature nourishing them until the earth tilts toward the sun once again—lengthening our days and fueling our souls.

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“Clouds symbolize the veils that shroud God.”—Honore de Balzac

My head has been in the clouds these last few days—the sky scape with its disparate displays drawing my attention upward. Throughout the day, the clouds are spread out like puzzle pieces awaiting connection, their texture like stretched wool, the colors muted with pastel blues and the slightest tint of pink separating the willowy masses. The canvas of clouds feels near—hovering—almost as if it belongs to another planet, another world completely.

At sunset a vast contrast occurs—the sky dividing into fragments of intense streaks of sienna and amaranth pink. Thin slivers of bright, golden light divide the layers of color. Tall pines become black towers in the foreground of the vibrant display as we drive through forested lands, peering for a glimpse of the setting sun.

The clouds at this hour disappear all together.

As an early-riser and also sometimes-keeper-of-the-night, I mostly collapse into bed dead-tired, falling off to sleep within moments. I fall asleep mid, “thank you,” a parade of images from my day flooding through me. I like this feeling. I watched my father work himself to the bone for much of my life and I’ve come to understand the impulse— the easing quality of meaningful hard work—and the contentment of collapsing at the end of the day, mission accomplished.

Occasionally, I will prioritize sleep, aware of the opportunity to be transported to a healing and renewing place. I dream more vividly and grasp for the messages imparted. I wake up feeling as if my brain has been reset. I recently got into bed before I was bleary-eyed sensing that it might be a while before I slept. I laid on my back—a heavy, down blanket covering me—and placed one hand on my abdomen and the other on my heart. I dropped down into myself—like falling into a vast, dark night’s sky. I might have been a feather floating in space.

I was aware of my spine but I experienced everything else as pure energy. At first, there were clouds huddled in my midst—bunched up and stormy—heavy—especially around where my throat and lower back might have been. I noticed a part of myself that began winnowing out the particles of these billowy vapors, freeing them to return to their rightful place. The essence of me was like a sheet being pulled back taut and tucked in.

I drifted in the wake of this movement noticing a greater buoyancy of my being, noticing a sense of having been recharged and made right again.

Jonah is nearly nine years old now. The top of his head rests at the top of my sternum and he likes to show how strong he is by picking me up. He bends at the thighs—creating a firm center of gravity—and wraps his arms around me mid-leg, lifting me into the air at an angle—like a rocket ready to be launched.

I feel like I might topple over and yell, “that’s enough, that’s enough!” He insists in his demonstration I not hold onto anything. I try to be a good sport and cooperate, tightening my body like a dancer in a lift.

Despite his strength, he’ll still climb into my lap and let me hold him. I wrap my arms around his waste or chest hoping we’ll always be so close, knowing it is impossible.

When he was littler and would sit in my lap, I would sometimes pat him on the back almost like I was playing a drum. Once his spritely friend was over and I was patting his back and she exclaimed, “why are you beating him?” She laughed and laughed. Whenever I did that to him—and I sometimes still do—it felt like I was helping him to come more fully into his body. It felt like I was grounding his airy nature and securing him onto the earth.

Yesterday I had intended to begin working on the second part of a two-piece creation in my, “Free to Play” art project. I had first created an image of my younger son Adrian leaping off of our back porch—his pocket goldfish-orange. I planned to create an image of what precipitated the jump—the crouch before the launch.

I went in search of the tracing paper I use in the first phase of the work and saw—and remembered—that I had finished the roll. I didn’t have time to go out and buy more materials before school pick-up so I began looking around to see if there were some scraps of paper I could tape together and use.

I couldn’t find any but I did come across a sketch of a woman—folded over in grief—that I had worked with previously.

I felt inspired to return to that image with the time I had. I could feel myself returning, also, to the original joy of this process without the constraints of planning and instead following an inner guidance system that drew me to particular colors and textures and shapes and showing me how to piece them together in an intuitive way—like a puzzle put together in the dark.

As I worked, I noticed a thinning out of the energy within me—the bunched up places unfurling and returning to balance. I felt a sense of relief and as if the atmosphere was clearing and a thousand tiny lights were being switched back on—brightening the way and returning me to firm footing once again.

 

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“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” —Unknown

I’ve got myself stationed at the kitchen island—hoody zipped up, a string of felted, fall decorations at my side waiting to be hung, the fire steeped in embers.

From here I can glimpse the tops of their heads bobbing in the yard, kicking a ball high into the air with a friend. I aim to strike a balance between keeping them alive and keeping their soul’s mission intact. It seems they’ll jump off of anything no matter the height—no matter the rusty, slicing edges. They hurdle through my room at night showing me they can.

Their faces flushed red from the cold peer in now asking to venture down to the dock. I leave the back door open to the screen—frigid, sea air bursting in forcing the heat out of the room. I can hear them—the tide is in so I want to be able to hear them. Soon they are back up, dragging an enormous pine branch in the shape of a V across the lawn, gifted from the persistent winds.

His head is tilted back under the faucet, his eyes shut—lips cherry red. I’m holding his neck with one hand and using the other to smooth the water through his hair, gently massaging his head, admiring his slight widow’s peak. The water is warm and makes his hair seem a darker, chocolaty brown. The repetition is soothing him, it is soothing me.

I rinse his hair long after the soap is gone and think about the ripple effect of learning to be present in his hurts—what it has meant for mine. I think about the overlap between seeing and listening. They have so much to say to me! Sometime I really listen to every word trying to follow along and sometimes I just look closely—like at a painting—their faces inscribed in the lining of me.

I’ve been noticing the way their voices echo an earlier time—the cadence, the selection of the word evening instead of night, the head tilt in delivery all exactly the same as when they were two and four, even as maturity washes over them. I soak in their newness even as they grow and grow.

There is such simple, exquisite beauty to be witnessed in the human encounter—every gesture a verse, each expression a lifeline to be grasped onto and pulled more near. Life’s most precious gifts can be discovered in the seeing and in the wanting to know. Found in the pausing and seeking to hear. Let presence be an antidote to the epidemic of loneliness. Let seeing extinguish the smoking, contagion of distraction.

I close my eyes when I take in your story over coffee—in the gutted warehouse—listening for any wisdom I might draw from the backdrop of me and impart onto you. I would cast a spell to drive out the unjustness if I could.

 I’ve taped up the card you made for me—imagining what it meant to write the words of a poem in the outline of a bird. The emotion in your eyes—not lost on me.

 At dinner I pretend that we have never met and ask about your dreams. I want to know this part of you, “she wants to dream with you.”

You wait for me by my car just to check in and make sure I am ok. I invite you to dinner once more. The boys are waiting in the car.

You confide how hard it has been—no end in sight. I say what I can about a grief I haven’t known and despite my stumbling way you keep sharing with me.

When I look into your eyes, something lights up inside of me. We might say nothing—or everything—depending on the day.

It’s evening now. They are gathered closely around me near the chair I am sitting in—a fire brightens the space around us like a stage. Jonah is describing a play he saw at school—acting out a scene in which a character in battle is overcome with a sword. He uses a long knife from his ninja costume to demonstrate, falling to the ground dramatically.

I ask him which part he would have liked to play. I assume the upper-grades had performed the show recently for the younger children and I hadn’t heard about it.

He clarifies that it was a production he saw two years ago.

I marvel at the way the story has lived in him as he goes on to recite a funny scene in which one of the British soldiers who received a letter from The French claims that he recognizes the word “chicken” written in French. To the delight of the audience, he interjects the word wherever he can despite the insistence from the French speaking soldiers that the word is never mentioned.

He goes on to describe the part he would like to have played. It was another soldier who stood very straight and tall—he shows me, tucking in his chin —guarding a bridge. He was instructed to destroy the bridge when he saw the enemy approaching. With perfect comic timing the soldier—and Jonah—responds, “after we’ve crossed it, right?” He grins like a professional, nearly winking. It would have been the perfect part for him. I tell him so.

Standing next to my chair, Adrian’s got his arm wrapped around mine as we have been taking in Jonah’s performance together. For some reason he’s got a coin in his hand and he’s rhythmically rubbing it against one of my two bracelets. It’s almost as if he is strumming a guitar. I turn to him and we’re both listening now to the very slight sound that he’s been making and I say, “you know this bracelet is actually made from a guitar string.”

He looks back at me smiling, strumming away without saying a word.

It really was a bracelet made from the sting of a guitar. I imagine all of the things that had to come together in order for him to find a way to play a little tune right there on my wrist.

 

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“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” —Anais Nin

I was wearing a favorite dress the day we closed on our house in Maine— the front beginning to fill out with my rounded, stretching, pregnant belly. This was our second attempt at ushering in a new life, the first lost just a few days before the departure for an intricately planned trip back to Spain—a place I had lived and studied in my final year of college.

I somehow blamed myself for the pregnancy ending. It was my body I had no control of and I couldn’t seem to will the hormones in the right direction. My skin crawled when people minimized the loss with their relentless insistence that it happens all of the time. They seemed not to understand my attachment to the dream—a vision that had died along with the tiny beating—I had briefly seen it beating—heart.

While I was living in Spain—with my youthful rounded face, platinum dyed blond hair—I had joined a group of students traveling and together we had boarded a ferry out of Le Havre, France heading to Ireland and spent a spooky Halloween night crossing the Celtic Channel. We played cards, smoked Fortunas and never slept.

We were greeted at dawn in Cork by a white sliver of light glimmering off the water and the rocky coastline—much like the Maine landscape. Eventually we made our way to Galway where we were met at the train station by a woman offering her home as a hostel. Boats rocked gently in the bay painting the horizon in vibrant pastels enhanced by the sun—pink, mauve and baby blue.

We slept in twos lined up together in feathered beds and woke to an Irish breakfast like that of my childhood, the table filled with fluffy eggs and buttered toast, pancakes and tea. I felt at home in a way that seemed woven within my DNA, tracing back to my Irish heritage. I thought that I could have lived there or had been there before.

We found a second hand store and bought old, woolen sweaters to keep off the chill and made our way to a bar where we mixed with the locals. I met a young man—a fellow student—who asked me what I thought about “the troubles” and the recent strides toward peace. I could hardly make out what he was saying through his thick brogue and the hum of the packed pub but I knew he was referencing the years of conflict in Northern Ireland that has spilled over into his and other parts of the world.

Later we huddled together by an enormous ventilation system of a warehouse building, trying to stay warm with the rush of air from the fans. I saw him once again a few years later, this time on the other side of the pond. We took a night-time carriage ride together through Central Park, his friend was our driver. We flipped through a copy of LIFE Magazine—where I worked at the time—marveling at the image of a giant sea creature that was featured within its pages. Only now do I fully understand how much the peace—the glorious end to the troubles—had mattered to him.

My dress on the day of the closing was argyle and matched the colors of the season with its golden yellow and pumpkin orange diamond design. I remember stopping to buy an additional layer—a grey sweater—the weekend we drove up from New York City to contemplate a move one last time. There was a chill in the air that had a way of working itself right into your bones. It was familiar and met the hover of fog and dense sea air in the perfect dance of climate and mood.

Keys in hand we drove to our new home, the route winding and long. We didn’t yet anticipate every steep hill and sharp turn, we didn’t yet know intimately the trees, the places where friends lived, the spots where cell service could be lost or found.

I had lived out a pattern of moving—either across the country or across town—every seven years for much of my life and this move fell precisely into the timing of yet another shift. Still, on that seemingly long drive from the nearest town onto the peninsula where our house sits perched on a tidal cove, I wondered whether we had made a decision that would nourish the tender nature of my soul.

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“O Joy! that in our embers is something that doth live.” —William Wordsworth

Driven from the woods by a well-meaning park ranger warning of the brown tail moths shedding their meddlesome hairs along the coast of Maine this season, I find myself now at a picnic bench in a farm field.

I’m looking out at a fenced pasture, peppered with yellow flowers—buttercups, I think—contained, yet empty except for a light blue tractor in the distance making its way back and forth across the landscape in some seasonal chore. The Casco Bay stretches out behind me just beyond a thick row of trees so that I cannot view this favorite, rocky spot where I sometimes come with my boys to skip rocks and take them in as they test their courage and agility.

The air is warm and thick—welcoming to the black flies that bother my face every now and then. The birds are deep in boisterous conversation and suddenly they quiet all at once as if in acknowledgement of some other presence listening on. One particular bird—a Yellow-headed Blackbird, I think—has the most to say and sounds almost robotic in his delivery. I could sit all day trying to decipher their messages, the individual meaning of these numinous sounds in my midst.

A few weeks back my friend was grieving. A group gathered at her home. It was a day most unlike this one. It was quite cool and drizzling rain. Maine can be so changing like that—most places can be. When I arrived, there was a small bonfire being tended out back. There was plentiful food in the kitchen, people speaking in lower tones than they normally would in our friend’s home. I spent some time inside and then gradually found my way out to the blazing fire.

The yard sits on the cusp of a wooded area surrounded by sprawling trees—some are alive and thriving—mostly Pines. Others are long dead and remain like towering sculptures—like art—stretching up into the sky. There was a pile of twigs and branches, bark and weathered logs just beyond the edge of the yard being drawn from and placed onto the bonfire keeping it going and the heavy moisture in the air at bay.

I joined in readily, finding my place in tending to the heat—the heart— of this place that remains within each of us even in our suffering. With each piece of wood that I added, each ember I stoked, I began tending to the spirit of my friend and to her home and family. Some of the children were barefooted despite the cool temperatures. I took in the nature of their soiled feet, the freedom they had in this company to just be. Many of them had found a stick to do their very own tending and roasting, unaware of the matter at hand.

The rain came down more strongly at times and then dissipated again, resting in a mist. I wasn’t particularly well-clothed for the conditions but I felt very, very warm and at peace. I had a hood, but kept it down, wanting to feel the dampness on my hair and face. It felt just right to be there keeping the fire going. I could have stood there well into the night.

A few years ago, my husband decided to have a large, old stump ground out of our yard. He made the arrangements without my knowing. He had no idea how much I loved that old stump! I mourned its departure, my heart sinking when I looked at the empty space where it had been. To me, it had been breathing. It had been a memory of something from long ago. It was just beautiful.

My husband was so sorry when he realized. A large circle of sawdust remained in our yard where it had been, never filling in with grass—as if in protest, the tree still grasping to be a part of this life.

A few days after the gathering at my friend’s home, and on the last day of school for my children, I began lining the circle of dust where the stump had been with rocks, creating an impromptu fire pit suited for the blustery day. I felt a little anxious about starting a fire with the gusts that were coming across the shoreline and through our yard.

Jonah and Adrian were deep in play out front. Occasionally they would run in their bare feet into the back checking in on me and noting my progress. When I was finally ready to start the fire, I asked Jonah what he thought—whether he thought it was safe to light a fire in the wind. He is still so young—only, seven—and yet, I trust his instincts about so many things. He thought it would be ok and so did I, ultimately, so I set forth in creating a tiny, slowly burning blaze and tending to it so that it was just big enough so we could roast marshmallows.

I ended up sitting by that simmering fire for hours and hours, gazing at the orange and crimson embers. At times it would get a little scary with the wind kicking up. I would pile a few small logs on to keep the ashes down.

I sat and I contemplated the tending of my own inner fire, of my own heart and all that I hold within me as sacred. There are so many dreams, so many sorrows, so much joy and love resting right in there in the center of me to be kept tenderly in a steady glow.

Strangely—or not strangely at all—it has begun raining here in this field as I have been writing and I have moved into the back of my car with only the hatchback covering me. The climate of my life—of all of our lives—is always changing. Whatever the weather, I plan to keep tending, to keep nourishing that which is golden and glowing within me. I plan to keep stoking the fire so that I might always stay good and warm.

 

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“I used to think maybe you loved me now baby I’m sure.” —Katrina & The Waves

It is an unseasonably warm day on the coast of Maine. The sun is bearing down like a heat lamp warming the mudflats and our bones to the core as if in an act of contrition for these long months of awaiting her arrival. The air vibrates with the subtle sound of creatures humming in unison—their chirps, bleeps and whistles coming together like the universal sound of Om that goes on beneath the buzz of daily living. And then the subtlety of the undertone is broken—an expansive gust of wind passing through and bringing forth the textured scent of salty sea air that can only be brewed in these parts. I am sitting within these rhythms and noticing as my own work shifts away from the yang energy of the studio creation that has had me in her grasp these last months into this place of greater stillness and reflection.

Today is the first day of a new year. The numbers that make up my age seem backward—two high for my young heart. I have been thinking about what it means to celebrate being a human and what it means to be celebrated. I have been thinking about how I might strip away the many needs and notions that are piled upon us—upon me—in this tightly constructed world and discover what is truly essential, what will matter in the end—those things that invoke meaning and connection and joy. I recently had a conversation with a little girl—a soon to be six year old—about her own coming birthday. She is a Gemini Twin like me—wide eyed and gentle. She frequently asks her mother to stop into churches so that she may look around—she just feels drawn there. She looked at me and she said with a deep seriousness and wonder in her eyes, “do you know that your birthday is the day that you were boooorn?” She drew out the word born long and with the awe and gravity this more valuable notion deserves.

Just a few days ago my toes felt like they were frozen solid and my feet—prematurely donning sandals—were heavy like clubs in the cold as I ran the bases after a minor league baseball game. I had gone down to the field with a group of children while some friends had stayed up at the top of the stadium where we had been invited to be in a friend’s box seats for the day. The stadium had mostly cleared out but we were returning to the box to gather our things. Some of the children—including my son Jonah and that same little Gemini girl—decided to take the upper deck approach to our box while I ran along the bottom deck in a parallel trajectory. Across the stadium, music was booming—loud and clear. It seemed that there were only the three of us there in the stadium. The three of us and the music. Jonah—so agile and self-assured—especially in his physicality, ran from step to step to step, up and up and up into the stadium he ran with such confidence, his friend behind him like a butterfly—light and free. “I’m walking on sunshine, woah oh!” the words to the song sang out— like a soundtrack to their running, expanding my heart and my mind with each verse. They were zigging and zagging now, “and don’t it feel good!” They were running and they were living and I was taking them in and I was celebrating their being so very alive as the words of the song penetrated my heart and soaked me in gratitude for being a witness to this miracle of their existence—just being them. Alive. On this earth. Just living. “I feel the love, I feel the love, I feel the love that’s really real.”

“Courage is a kind of salvation.”
—Plato

I was around 20 years old when I decided to jump out of an airplane for the first time. It was a static-line jump in which I climbed out of a rickety, old, seemingly taped-together airplane on a sweaty summer day. We were around 5,000 feet up when the door was opened—wind gushing in, loud and powerful in its pressure against our forward movement. I knew enough from our meager four or five hour training not to hesitate too long and was one of the first to climb out of the plane. Bracing my hands on the strut of the wing, I climbed forward and then hung there with my legs dangling out behind me. Counting down and out loud from three—fighting the deafening wind—I let go—my arms stretched out behind me in a “V” so as not to become intertwined with the line that I was attached to. With this type of jump there is almost no free-fall and you are entirely on your own. The line of the chute is pulled by its attachment to the plane within a few moments. I was trembling before and during the climb out of the plane—my heart beating wildly. Very afraid, I coaxed myself through each step, though outwardly I might have seemed calm.

Once the parachute opened I found myself in another world entirely and suddenly everything was very, very still, tranquil. I was floating across a patchwork movie screen of the world, the fear had vanished—sucked out of me and back up into the plane with the static line as if in a vacuum. I was perfectly—wonderfully—free from fear. I was perfectly—wonderfully—free from anything I had ever known. It was so incredibly quiet—a stillness came over me like I had never before experienced. I felt both entirely in myself and outside of myself at the same time. It did not in any way feel as if I were traveling downward through the sky, rapidly falling—although I was. And just as suddenly as I came into the stillness, I came out of it. The ground started to approach—objects becoming larger and larger, my speed seeming faster and faster. In a flash, I was back in my normal reality. I began to consider and then consciously operate the toggles which I had been holding onto—remembering now to guide myself to a particular spot on the landscape. The ground was coming now more quickly than I could have imagined. Suddenly a line was a fence, an abstract shape—a tree. It was time for me to land and I was not prepared. I just nearly missed the fence as it transformed before my eyes into something sturdy and tangible and sharp. I pulled my toggles down with all my might, steering sharply away from the obstacles and finally slowing myself but not in enough time to keep from hitting the ground with a dusty, graceless thud. My legs and feet were beneath me but it was no delicate landing. I was glad to be alive.

I have been listening to the language of fear these last weeks, noting the way in which the world speaks to us in themes through our experiences, through the things that show up as we float—or surge—along the cinema screens of our lives. Fear has shown up in my children at bedtime—their worries about being alone, unheld, unusually strong in these last months. Fear is steeped in the language of our politicians—both very real and exaggerated fears at the root of most platforms and coming across through all range of media. We are discussing the soothing of fears in the place that I go for spiritual nourishment—a welcome break from the usual focus on the fear itself. And as I take on new challenges in my own life—fears—those snarling, spitting beasts—have been lunging for me in their many shifty ways—so much more subtle and nuanced than the threat of a risky jump from a great height.

I have been thinking about how we might navigate fear so that it does not consume us and so that we might continue pursuing the things that we are called to. I’ve been thinking about how we might better notice fear, receive its sometimes worthy message, sidestep it, even, but not submerge it beneath us where it might take root and grow stronger. Naming fear is helpful. Like in meditation—as thoughts come up—we might describe them as something. Thinking, planning, storytelling, we might say to ourselves as thoughts arise—our breath rising and falling as an anchor. In this way we can receive the thoughts and then more readily send them along with less weight. It is as if in recognizing them, we may free them to stop prodding us. We can utilize a similar process when fears come near. I have also found that my fears die down—once acknowledged—when I then turn firmly away and press forward toward the things that I love. In this way, fear can see that there is no space left here in my home.

Despite the calendar turning toward February, the air was springlike this morning here in Maine. I entered my yoga class coatless—the sun warming me. As I’ve been sitting here, the sky has transformed from light blue to pale grey. It has grown darker—overcast, like it might rain. The water has been picking up its pace—moving along more like a river than a bay, icy segments breaking up before me. The tide has traveled inward, first rising beneath the ice, then meandering through it and finally moving the pieces apart completely. Crows dart back and forth from the trees in our yard eventually making their way out along the coastline.

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“You are here. The moon tides are here. And that’s all that matters.” —Sanober Khan

As the Winter Solstice comes more near, I have been thinking about the way in which we on this earth are bound to the sun and to the moon. I have been thinking about the big picture of our lives. I am taken with the push and pull of gravitational force that is necessary to sustain this delicate balance of the earth’s light and liquid and the way in which we are suspended—at an angle—in space just spinning and spinning. Like a sailer immersed in the rise and fall of the tides, I notice my own inner comings and goings. I imagine the rivers of my being engaged in a whimsical dance with my lunar partner—ebbing and flowing and then back again with a twirl. The more vast the scope of inner spaciousness I am able to cultivate, the greater my ability to witness this rhythmic cycle within me. I remember recently standing in front of a mirror. Emotion was coming over me like a cresting wave. I remember looking into my reflection, into my eyes. It seemed I could see all the way to the moon. I remember finally settling within myself and recognizing—this is just a tide. This is just a tide, I thought, as I so slowly and so gratefully made my way back to shore.

A friend recently shared an article  with me about the impact of very gentle micromovements in yogic practice and the potential for this subtle and nuanced work to impact healing. Apparently these very slight and attentive movements allow for the brain to track what is happening and create new neural pathways that support restoration of the places in which the body has gone off-course. I found this to be such a profound metaphor for the ways that healing and transformation have worked in my own life. I have never benefited from seeking gurus or grand interventions to make me well. Instead, I have found a steadiness of spirit in the clearing out of a too-full closet, in shoveling wood chips, in getting up with my children deep in the night when they’ve needed me. I notice that with each small act of creativity, of seeing things through, of working, of waiting, of inner-noticing, of accessing my breath, an inner-musculature has taken form and allowed me to grow more sturdy.

It gets dark at around 4:30 in this season here in Southern Maine— not long after we arrive home from school and just about when I start preparing food for dinner. We’ve turned on the music—as we often do—a few favorite 1960’s classics have me singing along as I begin sautéing our supper. Adrian has fallen deep into puzzle play and Jonah is playing around with a  ball we received as a gift when he was so little still. It looks like a small beach ball but it is actually a balloon blown up within a cloth cover. I catch Jonah’s eye while I am singing, his face lights up with a smile and I come out from behind the stove. We begin playing a game in which we each do our own set of dance moves while holding the ball and then toss the ball back to the other person while sticking our “move.” After doing one fancy turn and tossing him the ball he shouts out, “do you do ballet?” It makes me laugh. And then we are both laughing as we get sillier and sillier trying to hold our poses and the ball and balance all that we are made of as the moon makes its way higher and higher into the vast evening sky.

 

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“We are time’s subjects, and time bids be gone.” —William Shakespeare


A few years ago I purchased a small, cornflower blue journal with a golden inscription, “One Line A Day – A Five Year Memory Book.” I began making entries just before Jonah turned three when he was ardently discovering the world and slowing my pace so that I might have the pleasure of noticing whiskers on cats right along with him. Adrian was a chubby 8 months old who consumed a diet of avocado and raspberries with abandon—remnants often strewn across his kissable cheeks and our dining room floor. In the tiny space given for each day, I wrote brief impressions about the resonant—yet mostly mundane—moments of our lives. I was hopeful that with a meager single-sentence commitment that I would be steadfast in my resolve to take note and remember these precious times. There are multiple mentions of our blue push car which must have clocked 1,000 miles as we trekked to Shore Road in all manner of weather. I began writing my blog in that year and professed my gratitude repeatedly for this new outlet of expression. Oh, and the snow, there are so many descriptions of the beauty of living in a virtual snow-globe. I do not know why I stopped writing so abruptly. I do remember the struggle of keeping track—of missing days and trying to write backward in time. I’ve since thought a lot about memory. I’ve thought about the stories we hold sacred for our children—and for ourselves—so that we might offer them a framework for their lives. I’ve thought about what it is I remember from my own life and the reasons why. Years have since passed. My boys have grown and expanded and transformed before my eyes until they just burst forth from their place as the tiny innocents within our constant care into these gorgeous, autonomous creatures firmly taking up their very own space in the world.

We are at a local, annual pumpkin festival. We’ve been coming here every season for about six years. It’s quite chilly and many of the hundreds of beautifully carved pumpkins lining the grounds are partially green. We’ve had a rocky start to our afternoon with tears over coats being worn and other general manifestations of tiredness. Feathers unruffled now, we stride up to the festivities and take part in “gourd bowling” and a beanbag toss. Soon we run into “Pumpkin Pete.” He is a familiar fellow with his spongey, orange costume and human body hidden from sight. Jonah strides up to him and reaches out to shake his hand. We smile reminding him of how afraid he used to be of this costumed character and he does a little impression of that faraway time. Adrian grabs my hand so that he might fearlessly go more near. Together we take a photograph. Next we notice giant bubbles in the distance—over by where the band will play later. There is a man there who is using an unusual apparatus—likely of his own construction—in order to create enormous bubbles in various forms. He has configured two long poles tied together with a network of thin rope. With the poles he dips the rope down into a soapy solution then raising them back up into the air he swings them about forming these magical—and enormous—otherworldly creations. Jonah and Adrian at first stand mesmerized. Then they go jumping about with the other children in an attempt to reach these floating, light-filled orbs. Occasionally a taller child manages to catch the edge of a bubble and the soapy liquid comes splashing down on the crowd. This happens just above Adrian. I use my gloved hands to wipe suds from his hat, from his long eyelashes. The sounds of 1980’s popular music fill the air, children are laughing and jumping all around, the bubble man looks on grimly as he works to keep his magic bulbs appearing with so many bouncy children in his midst. I find my eyes fixed on one very large, lone bubble as it travels above the crowd and begins floating further and further away, rotating and expanding and changing shapes as it goes.

 

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“What you are will show in what you do.” —Thomas A. Edison

A few years ago my now six year old son Jonah became interested in having a special container where he could keep his treasures in a private and secure place. He wanted something with a lock. We happened to have a small, unused lock-box that I offered to him. I strive to say “yes” when I can. I love to see my children manifesting their desires if I sense that it will be beneficial. Jonah came to call this box his “kit.” He keeps it remarkably unhidden on a toy chest in his playroom. I must overt my eyes, though, when he reaches for his hidden key. Adrian—his adoring little brother—may look on, for he is “a kid.” Jonah has utilized various key chains over the years to keep track of his key. My favorite was a multi-colored disco ball that he had picked out for me at an airport gift shop. I was happy to see it go to good use. I believe it has since broken and been discarded, replaced with a little scrap of yarn. For a while, Jonah’s kit was mostly filled with various gifts of the earth—stones and shells and such. In the last few months, he has become increasingly aware of the value of money and he has taken to setting up shops where he might earn a few dollars. His kit is filled with his earnings, plus some bills from a small—and oft forgotten—allowance and gifts from family. My favorite of his shops was his whittling mill that he set up in our living room on a small side table. In mid-summer he discovered that a kitchen, vegetable peeler acted as a fine tool for the shaping of sticks. This work proved to be a good place for his bountiful energy with so much of it going into the smoothing out the rough edges of the plentiful branches in our yard.

The abundance of acorns peppering our lawn this season makes walking around barefooted on these lingering, temperate days rough on the feet. I find myself taking a step, then a hop, a step, then stopping to pull a small acorn away from the arch of my foot. It is said that increased fruit production in nature portends heavier winters. Like squirrels in preparation for snows arrival, we’ve begun collecting these nutty gems once again just as our Acorn Tree Art prepares for shipment to the Maine Audubon for display. I’m taken with the way we arrive at that which is ours to do in this life. Collecting buckets and jars filled with acorns in the fall and saving them for art—I’m certain—is not for everyone. It is what we do, though. On one of our warmer days recently, I found myself engrossed in this process of moving along the steps of our back porch on hands and knees collecting these powerful seeds and their anthropomorphic little hats. I have a special affinity for the deep, chestnutty brown ones. Adrian—my littler boy—likes the still-green ones and tells me so when he comes near me in my work. We sit together closely for a few moments on the steps. I ask him if he knows that he has acorn eyes—such a beautiful mix of chestnut and green. He just smiles a knowing smile.

Soon he moves along to the work he has created for himself of digging in the dirt, of climbing and calling out for me to watch. Looking back down to a sunny spot on the ground filled with handfuls of acorns from which I might choose, a profound sense of calm washes over me, settling all of my inner-clutter into its right place. Faith shows up in this way—unannounced and without warning—a welcomed elixir brimming with healing thoughts and mending songs. There you are collecting acorns in your yard, on the couch—your sleepy child’s head in your lap. In she walks dripping with asylum, each droplet a new miracle to behold.

 

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“Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark.” —Rabindranath Tagore

In this season, the birds awaken so early, beginning their morning song a good hour before our household stretches its sleepy limbs. I’ve been listening to their song and heard them clearly this morning—the door to our bedroom kept ajar in the night. Lingering in the space between sleep and wakefulness, I experienced their chirping coming to life and then my bigger boy Jonah called out to me from his room down the hallway. I jumped up quickly and went to him trying to ensure that he didn’t wake our littler boy Adrian with whom he shares a room. It is a big job protecting these two birds from each other, soothing over ruffled feathers and quieting the squawking when one has seized a valuable find from the other. “It’s so cold in here!” Jonah exclaimed as he stumbled into our room still half-asleep. I suggested he crawl under the covers quickly and from the swagger in his walk I knew he would be back to sleep in no time. It seemed much later than it was and I was surprised when I looked at the clock and saw that we had more than an hour before we needed to rise for the boys’ first day of camp. I had just drifted back to sleep when I heard Adrian call out. I glanced over at Jonah and saw that he was soundly sleeping again. Even as he grows quickly into his more mature six year old self, his face still appears like an angel when he sleeps—his lips full and pink, his skin so smooth with cheeks still slightly rounded. He seems younger than he is under the big fluffy white comforter. I pull back the covers quickly and head back down the hall to Adrian—this time trying to protect Jonah’s sleep. Adrian asks for me to lay with him and I crawl into his tiny twin bed. It is toasty warm there and a luxury to curl up next to his still, little body. He is coming into his four year old being with the speed of a bullet train and the stealth of a ninja. And so this moment of calm is that much more treasured.

A few summers ago, our family ventured out on a three-hour whale watching excursion launched from a dock in Portland, ME. The “before” picture is a favorite of mine with a special aunt and uncle journeying along with us, the sun shining down and smiles across the board. The boys look so small—Jonah with a wide brimmed sun hat and Adrian decked out in a plaid shirt, tucked into my arms. Shortly after leaving the Casco Bay we found ourselves out in the deeper sea on a vessel spouting heavy fumes and with the gait of a slow-motion, bucking bronco. It wasn’t long before I found myself in the boat’s tiny bathroom with Jonah where he was loosing his lunch and my head was spinning.  Adrian was draped over my husband’s slumped shoulder escaping his nausea and this tumultuous situation through a deep and abiding sleep. Our relatives were stoic but now donning gray complexions. The whales were elusive and the minutes were counted until we would return to shore. We all envied Adrian in his slumber and the sip of Ginger Ale from a kind stranger was a life saver. The photograph at the end of the journey would have been a very different one than the one that was taken at the start! I have found myself recently in this same place of enduring some of the things that life has thrown my way, of counting the moments, of holding on until the waves have settled and we may come safely back to shore.  I am heartened by our ability to share this story of our excursion with such laughter now and of our dream of still owning a boat one day.

I attended my first yoga class in New York City in the 1990’s. I remember looking up from a congested Manhattan avenue and noticing the fluid, muslin curtains draping the sprawling windows of the second floor. I remember the start of my practice, of comparing myself of being somewhat outward-focused. Last summer, I was able to begin a more consistent, deeper practice at a studio that opened near my home here in Maine. I find myself now in class often with my eyes closed heavily, my attention drawn deeply inward. I find myself lingering in the spaces within me, strengthening my ability to be with the varying sensations that arise as we travel the asanas sometimes holding for longer and longer periods of time. I notice the way that anchoring in my breath and feeling my way around the many facets of my being, I am able to witness the rise and fall of these sensations. There in the wake, I find myself in peace and I find myself growing stronger.

 

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